Executed in 1788, these sculptures date to one of the most important and prolific phases in Philippe-Laurent Roland's career. Having studied at the École de Dessin in Lille, near his hometown of Pont-á-Marc, Roland moved to Paris in 1764 where he entered the studio of Augustin Pajou. During his stage with Pajou, he worked on major commissions such as the decorations at the Palais Royal, Paris, and at the opera house at Versailles. In 1771 he left for Rome, where he began to combine French 18th-century delicacy with the more austere Italian neo-classicism to great effect. In 1782, he was accepted into the Académie Royale, Paris, and two years later, his father-in-law Nicolas-Marie Potain, comptroller of works at the château of Fontainebleau, secured employment for him as a decorative sculptor in the private apartments of Louis XVI. The dating of the present busts to 1788 therefore places them at a time when Roland was most active, working on significant commissions having consolidated the various aspects of his training and experience. With these two busts, he has adopted his French 18th century sense for naturalism and playfulness - a debt he owed to Pajou - and added neo-classical elements such as the heavy drapery, the girl's pseudo-diadem and the models' dignified yet slightly frozen poses.
As Draper and Scherf (op. cit, p. 266) have pointed out, portraits of artists or their families were always looked upon with great fondness in French 18th century society and were also very much in fashion at the Salon of 1789, where these busts were exhibited. Lami (loc. cit.) lists them in his formidable inventory of French sculptors as Deux enfants de M. Rousseau, architecte. Buste en terre cuite. Salon de 1789. The sitters depicted are Rosemarie Charlotte and Pierre Camille, the children of the eminent architect Pierre Rousseau, and therefore fall into that fashionable category. Rousseau's architectural legacy remains strong in France and includes the imposing former palace of the Prince of Salm on the Seine in Paris, now the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur.